Pros: Extremely poignant; tackles the tough subject of honour killings with bravery. Covers a lot of different perspectives.
Cons: The writing was very variable in quality. Number of different writers led to a lot of repetition.
Twelve is an intriguing fundraising project by Kali theatre, a company that promotes the voice of South Asian female community. The evening showcased monologues by twelve different writers that explored the subject of honour killings. Some monologues stood alone but others linked together between a mother, father and their two children, a student and teacher. The twelve pieces, form part of Tristan Bates’ Talkback Festival, which features diverse drama from Kali theatre company, including Speed, reviewed by us last week.
The subject of honour killings is a difficult one to tackle but it was good to see that the audience was a mix of South Asians and those outside this community. Given the performance is fundraising for charities that help women in domestic violence situations, it was good to see a full house. The standard of performance was high for most of the evening, so much so that it surmounted some of the writing weaknesses. I enjoyed that they linked monologues together, dividing up and meshing some that weren’t necessarily connected by character but had the same theme. This prevented the evening from becoming stale, and put ideas against each other in an interesting way.
However, it was painfully clear that the actors did not have enough rehearsal time – they awkwardly managed scripts along with props and movement. It would have made a huge difference if they had enough preparation time to get off book. That being said, there were only a couple of weak links amongst the cast who were generally pretty impressive.
The writing, however, was much more inconsistent in terms of quality. There were some really poignant moments; a standout moment was when a young girl speaking to her mother about her death at the hands of her father asserted, “I am not your money.” However, there was also a lot of cliché on show. Even in the monologue from where the previous line was quoted, there were so many metaphors about fruit that I was squirming by the end of it.
Because the writers worked separately on their pieces, ideas and perspectives were repeated and the evening felt very long. Clearly, the number twelve is significant – it is the number of women that die in the UK each year from ‘honour based violence’. With more than one monologue per writer however, the performance stretched out to two and a half hours, and didn’t really have the legs to cover it.
One good thing about having so many different writers was the number of different perspectives on show – we saw daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, friends and teachers. I was also pleased to see that some writers found humour amongst some real tragedy. The whole house shook with laughter when one of the young victims of honour violence told us, “At my age you should be worrying if you can get away with Cheryl Cole yellow eye shadow. You can’t, by the way.”
When Twelve was good, it was really good. Some moments were truly stirring and it is an extremely important subject to talk about and give a voice to. Obviously, it was also great to see the fundraising efforts do well. However from an artistic point of view, repetition and cliché did slightly let the evening down. If the whole thing was refined slightly, it could have been something really special.
Producer: Kali Theatre Company
Director: Janet Steel
Box Office: 020 7240 6283
Booking Link: http://www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk
Booking Until: 14th December 2013